Gone are the days where graphic novels and comic books are looked down on for being an inferior art form! In this day and age, being into both is not only popular, but encouraged. And, as a field traditionally dominated by white artists, colorists, and writers, minority representation is always welcome. In recent decades especially, Black writers within the genre have been on the rise! Today, we’re taking a thorough look at six celebrated Black comic book and graphic novel writers whose works you should definitely check out!
1. John Jennings
John Jennings does it all! Not only is he a beloved professor at the University of California at Riverside, but he is also a curator and a Harvard fellow! As a writer, his work is prolific and has set him in place as a champion for Black rights and culture. Simply put, his portfolio speaks for itself, with Jennings having worked as an editor on the 2016 Eisner Award-winning collection, The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art. This collection celebrates and takes a deep look at Black representation within the field of graphic novels and comics.
2. Vita Ayala
Vita Ayala is a non-binary Afro-Puerto Rican writer. As a graduate from SUNY Potsdam in 2010, Ayala first began with freelancing as a writer and now works writing both comics and prose! They currently reside in New York City with their wife and many cat children, where they continue to work on many more incredible pieces of fiction. Ayala has written for publishers such as Marvel Comics, Detective Comics, Black Mask Studio and more!
3. Kwanza Osajyef
Kwanza Osajyef began his comic book and graphic novel career as an intern at Marvel Entertainment. He has worked hard since then to rise up the ladder, making his way up the industry bit by bit. His hard-working attitude and skill led him to publishing DC’s first webcomic print, as well as drafting the blueprints for their digital comics initiative. His first graphic novel, BLACK, was published in 2017, and asked the question: what if only Black people had superpowers?
4. Roye Okupe
With a passion for comics and animation, Roye Okupe has always had a dream of creating a diverse universe of superheroes. In 2015, he founded YouNeek Studios to help make that dream a reality. Under their banner, Okupe has published several animated productions. Most recently, he’s won the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics, as a result of his “commitment to excellence and inclusion”. Okupe’s published graphic novels and comics are also directly influenced by his heritage. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, you can find plenty of inspiration to his upbringing in his debut graphic novel, E.X.O. The Legend of Wale Williams Part One.
Then there is also Malika – Warrior Queen and Iyanu: Child of Wonder as well. Okupe’s works prove just how dedicated the writer is to making sure every little Black boy and girl is able to see themselves represented in fiction!
5. Roxane Gay
Born in Nebraska, Roxane Gay is one of this century’s most revered writers. Gay began writing during her teen years, when she would write essays about her interests, which then evolved into the provocative literature we might read today. While she is best known for her collection of essays titled, Bad Feminist, Gay is also well-known as a comic book and graphic novel author. The Banks, published in December of 2019, is a thriller heist graphic novel which Gay wrote with TKO Studios.
Other incredible works by her within the field include Black Panther: World of Wakanda. Both her and the poet, Yona Harvey worked on this together, making them both the first Black women to be lead writers for Marvel!
6. Nilah Magruder
Nilah Magruder is a picture book and graphic novel writer based in Maryland. She is the first winner of the Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity in Comics, which she received for her then web comic, M.F.K. In 2016, she became one of the first Black women to write for Marvel Comics, with her work first appearing in A Year of Marvels: September Infinite Comic #1. In 2017, M.F.K was formally published, with its first volume being distributed in print!
Currently, she is taking a break from writing and working on illustrating her next graphic novel, Creaky Acres. But, if you’re interested in pursuing more of Magruder’s incredible works, make sure to keep an eye out for the series, Marvel Rising.
For more incredible BHM representation, click here!